It might have been senior night for the Hannibal boy's soccer team, but it was a pair of juniors who stepped up. Scott Cockrell and Alec Abel both scored goals as the Pirates beat Fulton 2-1 Tuesday night.
For Abel, the goal couldn't have come at a better time. The junior scored his first goal of the season with 6:32 remaining in the game to break a 1-1 tie and give the Pirates the lead. Hannibal's defense then hung on for the win.
"It was great," Abel said. "It was good to get my first goal of the season and help us advance to 17-5 and get another conference win."
Hannibal coach Eric Hill was happy for see Abel finally find the net.
"He does all the little things right," Hill said. "He is more of a defensive minded mid-fielder, in fact going into the season we had him listed as a defender and he is playing outside mid for us. He really helps solidify that left side. We think we are not going to get attacked as much on that left side as we have two defenders playing on that side, so for him to get up there and in the air like that and put that ball away, that was huge. It is great for a kid like Alec to score a goal on a big night and a big game like this."
The win guaranteed Hannibal (17-5, 9-1 NCMC) at least a share of the North Central Missouri Conference title.
"It was two teams at the top of the conference fighting it out for the conference championship," Hill said. "It was back and forth. I wouldn't say that we dominated play or that Fulton dominated play, it is the way that a game of this caliber ought to be played."
Scott Cockrell gave Hannibal a 1-0 lead late in the first half. Cockrell scored with 5:34 left when he beat the Fulton defenders for a goal coming in from the left. Tyler Thomure picked up the assist on Cockrell's goal.
"Tyler Thomure did a nice job of setting that up," Hill said. "He got the ball on the in-line for us and Scott was in the right place and he did a nice job of finishing. One thing we know about Scott is he is not going to try and finesse things. He is not going to try and place the ball, he is going to hammer it and he did that again tonight."
Within 15-20 seconds of the Pirates' goal, Fulton came close to tying the game, but Hannibal goalie Logan Robinson made a great save on one attempt and Fulton's second attempt was just wide. The Pirates hung on though and took their 1-0 lead into halftime.
Page 2 of 2 - "It was competitive to the very end," Abel said. "It was just back and forth, back and forth. But eventually we just came out on top."
Hill said both teams had opportunities.
"Both teams had some chances," Hill said. "Both keepers made some nice saves and we were fortunate enough to put it in late in the game and wrap it up before we headed into overtime."
When the second half began, Fulton continued to pressure the Pirates. Then, just 51 seconds into the second half, Fulton tied the score at 1-1 when Trevor Neal scored on a pass from Zach Thomas.
"They caught us napping at the beginning of the second half," Hill said.
The game remained tied until Abel scored his first goal of the season on a header. The pass came from Cockrell.
"It is nice to win a big game," Abel said. "It was nice to be right there at the right time. To score my first goal of the season and to have it be a game winner is just awesome."
With the win, Hannibal is now one win away from tying the school record for most wins in a single season. The Pirates will have a chance to tie the mark on Thursday when the Pirates travel to Elsberry before closing out the season against conference foe Marshall on Saturday. Hannibal's lone NCMC loss of the season came at Marshall.
"We got a share of conference tonight with this win," Hill said. "I told the guys I am selfish and I want to win it just us. If we take care of business on Saturday, that will happen. Another thing we have been talking about doing is setting the school record for most wins in a season. Right now it is at 18 and we are one back of that. We have two more games to go in the regular season and we want to get these last two and go into districts on a roll."